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New Rules to Ease Posthumous Organ Donation

Posted May. 13, 2009 08:10,   


Organ donation will be allowed if a person expressed a willingness to donate before he or she died or fell into a coma without permission from relatives.

The Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry announced yesterday a plan to promote organ donation after consultations with medical and religious circles and other organizations.

Under the plan, permission from surviving relatives is no longer required in donating the organs of brain-dead patients or the deceased. Current law requires permission from the surviving family for organ donation even if the deceased had pledged to donate their organs before their deaths.

If a brain-dead patient did not express a willingness to donate organs, one relative instead of two can approve the donation. Hospitals need permission from the bereaved family in the order of the spouse, lineal ascendants, lineal descendants and siblings. People afflicted with mental illness and retardation can also donate their organs with permission from their families.

The number of brain dead patients is an estimated 5,000 a year, but hospitals reported only 264 cases to the government in 2007 and 391 cases last year. Based on this data, the government will also make it mandatory for hospitals to report potential brain-dead patients to secure more organ donors.

An incentive system is also under consideration to encourage participation from hospitals.

For a faster decision on brain death, the number of brain death committee members will be cut from six to 10 (three medical specialists) to four to six (two medical specialists).

To prevent the illegal trading of organs, only medical organizations will be allowed to register and manage waiting lists of organ recipients instead of the central and provincial governments, the Korea National Red Cross and non-profit organizations.

The Health Ministry will revise laws to that end and submit them to the National Assembly in September.